Accommodating change? An investigation of the impacts of government contracting processes on third sector providers of homelessness services in South East England

Buckingham, Heather (2010) Accommodating change? An investigation of the impacts of government contracting processes on third sector providers of homelessness services in South East England. University of Southampton, School of Social Sciences: Sociology and Social Policy, Doctoral Thesis , 294pp.


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This study investigates the impacts of government contracting on third sector providers of services for single homeless people in Southampton and Hampshire, in South East England. It focuses particularly on tendering and quality measurement. 24 interviews were conducted with representatives of 21 third sector organisations (TSOs) and a further two with local government representatives. Quantitative data were used to describe the characteristics of the TSOs. Different TSOs experienced and responded to government contracting in different ways, and a typology was therefore developed which categorised the organisations into one of four types: Comfortable Contractors; Compliant Contractors; Cautious Contractors; and Community-based Non-contractors.

Tendering and quality measurement consumed significant amounts of time and required TSOs to access legal and tender-writing expertise. This was more problematic for the smaller Cautious Contractors, whereas larger TSOs with multiple contracts could meet the requirements more cost-efficiently. The quality measurement processes introduced as part of the Supporting People programme were deemed to have considerably improved standards. However, there were concerns that the emphasis on achieving measurable outcomes and moving clients on within a specified time could lead to the neglect of less tangible aspects such as improved self-esteem, and did not take sufficient account of longer term outcomes for clients.

The impacts of contracting were ambiguous and varied amongst the different types of providers. However, the commissioning processes seemed to favour larger, more professionalised TSOs, which exhibited fewer of the distinctive characteristics upon which New Labour’s support for third sector involvement in service provision was premised. This points to the need for a more carefully differentiated policy discourse which acknowledges the third sector’s diversity and is more transparent about which types of TSO the government is seeking to engage with for which purposes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Social Sciences > Sociology and Social Policy
ePrint ID: 174795
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
February 2010Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 19 May 2011 14:28
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:33

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